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to kill a mockingbird essay

By powei Nov 25, 2013 1575 Words


Prejudice Can Kill

           “ A black man’s life is worth more than a white man’s.” This saying is referring to a certain type of prejudice known as racism. Racism is also a main theme that Harper lee brings across in the novel because it is set in the south part of The United States in a time where white people were considered superior to black people. Prejudice can be defined as a preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience; therefore it is not limited to only racism. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee shows the awful effects that prejudice can have on people. She builds up the characters in a favorable manner and links the theme of prejudice to the meaning of the title. To kill a mocking bird is referring to the harming of someone or something that never does anything bad to you or anyone and sometimes even does good. This is linked with prejudice because the people who are mockingbirds in the novel are also the people who are victims of prejudice. She mainly shows the effect that prejudice has on Arthur Radley (Boo), Atticus Finch, and Tom Robinson.            Firstly, a main character that is badly affected by the prejudice of Maycomb is Boo Radley, who we are introduced to at the beginning of the novel. The whole town of Maycomb considers Boo Radley to be a monster because of a certain incident. “ According to Miss Stephanie, Boo was sitting in the living-room cutting some items from the Maycomb Tribune to paste in his scrapbook. His father entered the room. As Mr Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activities.”(11) It does not matter whether the incident is even true or not but the fact that the people of Maycomb just believe it and do not give Boo a chance to show what kind of a person he really is adds to the prejudice of the town. There is another incident that demonstrates the prejudice towards Boo Radley, but this time Jem, Scout, and Dill conflict it on him. Dill is a little boy who comes to Maycomb every summer and plays many games with the children. One day they decide to play an acting game based on the life of the Radleys. They act out the scene where Boo stabs his father in the leg with the scissors. The acting out of that scene is a sign of prejudice because the children believe that this actually occurred and don’t care to find out for themselves how Boo Radley really is. They simply pass on all the derogatory rumors about him therefore being prejudice towards him. Atticus comes in and sees them acting out the incident and immediately reprimands them to stop. He explains to them that it is bad what they are doing. The rumors about Boo Radley are very prejudice. “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten, his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.” (13) Scout finally finds out that they are untrue with her encounter with Boo at the end of the novel but throughout the novel she pre judged him. Harper Lee shows the way Jem and Scout mature and develop throughout the novel by showing how they become less ignorant and begin to think differently from the people of Maycomb. The three main incidents that demonstrate prejudice towards Boo Radley in the novel are the story about how he stabbes his father in the leg, the games that Jem, Scout, and Dill would play acting out the scenes of his life, and the rumors that circulate Maycomb about how he is to be blamed for all the nocturnal events. Harper Lee uses these three incidents to clearly show how prejudice people are in Maycomb County. Atticus Finch is another character in the novel that is terribly affected by the prejudice of his fellow people. When Scout goes to school, she slowly begins to doubt her father because she finds out all the exciting things that her friend’s parents are able to do with them, and she concludes that her father has no good qualities and is too old to do exciting activities with her. “ He was much older than the parents of our school contemporaries, and there was nothing Jem or I could say about him when our classmates said, ‘My Father-‘.”(97) This is a sign of prejudice because Scout is just assuming that her father has no good qualities instead of maybe asking him if there is anything special he can or could do. On the contrary, later in the novel, Atticus turns out to be amazing at aiming a gun and shooting. “ I saw that, One-Shot Finch!”(105) This demonstrates that Atticus does in fact have unique qualities and Scout is more than shocked when she finds out. Harper Lee shows prejudice towards Atticus when he is called “nigger lover” for agreeing to defend a black man named Tom Robinson. This is not only prejudice towards Atticus but it is also racist towards black people. It is racist towards black people because it implies that there is something wrong with loving a “nigger”. It is also prejudice towards Atticus because it means they are judging him based on the fact that he is defending a black man and not by his true character. “ I simply want to say that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.’(234) This is spoken by Ms. Maudie and shows the prejudice of the town because she and everyone else knew that once Atticus took on the court case, he would be scrutinized. The last occurrence of prejudice that happens towards Mr Finch is when Bob Ewell spits in his face after the trial just for the sole reason of defending Tom Robinson. This is he being prejudice towards Atticus because he feels as though he is superior towards Atticus now because he fought for a black man and lost. Harper Lee also uses this event to show how racist Bob Ewel was and how he felt no remorse for what he had done. The three main parts in the novel that show prejudice towards Atticus are when Scout and Jem doubt him because they assume he has no unique qualities, when people in Maycomb call him a ‘nigger lover’ because he is defending Tom Robinson, and when Bob Ewel spits in his face for trying his best to defend Tom Robinson. Harper Lee uses these events to bring across not only the theme of prejudice but also the theme of killing a mockingbird.

Tom Robinson is probably the worst victim of prejudice in this novel. We find out that Tom Robinson, who is black, is being accused of raping Mayella, who is the daughter of Bob Ewell. “I see that black Negro ruttin’ on my Mayella” (173). This is obviously not true but Bob Ewell tries to make it sound as real as possible by claiming that he saw it happen. Another act of prejudice towards Tom Robinson is the verdict. Despite all the evidence that Atticus puts forward to prove that Tom Robinson is clearly innocent, he is still found guilty. This is prejudice to him because he is essentially being sent to prison because he is black and for no other reason. This particularly shows how prejudice can Kill because Tom Robinson does indeed end up being shot 17 times while he is in prison therefore being killed. The last case of prejudice towards Tom Robinson is when Scout is trying to cheer Dill up after Dill hears how badly Mr. Glimmer treated Tom when he was on the stand and how he was interrogated. “Well Dill, after all he’s just a Negro.” (199) This statement is very racist because it is justifying the situation with the fact that he is black. Harper Lee uses all these little incidents to build up the great picture that depicts how prejudice the world is today and how it is taken for granted.             In Conclusion, the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee shows how badly prejudice can affect people by using three main characters: Arthur Radley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson. Boo Radley is said to be a horrible person who never leaves his house and commits crimes in the middle of the night. This is all false because in actual fact he is a loving and kind person. Atticus Finch is treated badly by the people of Maycomb because he does the right thing by defending Tom Robinson in the trial. Lastly, Tom Robinson is ridiculed and, in the end killed because of all the racism and prejudice directed towards him due to the nature of the people around him. Harper Lee uses the town of Maycomb to demonstrate the harsh effect that prejudice can have on people and through those three characters is able to show that one must be very careful because prejudice can kill.

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